Just Friends (John Klenner, Sam M. Lewis)
Although introduced by Red McKenzie and His Orchestra in October 1931, the song first became a hit for singer Russ Columbo who recorded it with Leonard Joy’s Orchestra in 1932. Ben Selvin and His Orchestra also charted with their recording that year. Originally a slow sentimental ballad, since the 1950s the song has typically been played at a fast tempo by jazz musicians.
Adrian Schubert Orchestra, vocal: Smith Ballew — recorded November 1931
Russ Columbo withLeonard Joy Orchestra
Charlie Parker – from Bird With Strings, recorded 30 Nov 49
Charlie Parker (alto sax), Ray Brown (bass), Buddy Rich (drums),Bronislaw Gimpel, Max Hollander, Milton Lomask (violins), Frank Brieff (viola), Frank Miller (cello), Meyer Rosen (harp), Stan Freeman (piano), Mitch Miller (oboe). Arranged and conducted by Jimmy Carroll.
A longstanding desire of Parker’s was to perform with a string section. He was a keen student of classical music, and contemporaries reported he was most interested in the music and formal innovations of Igor Stravinsky, and longed to engage in a project akin to what later became known as ‘Third Stream Music’; a new kind of music, incorporating both jazz and classical elements as opposed to merely incorporating a string section into performance of jazz standards. On November 30, 1949, Norman Granz arranged for Parker to record an album of ballads with a mixed group of jazz and chamber orchestra musicians. Six master takes from this session comprised the album Bird With Strings: “Just Friends”, “Everything Happens to Me”, “April in Paris”, “Summertime”, “I Didn’t Know What Time It Was”, and “If I Should Lose You.” The sound of these recordings is rare in Parker’s catalog. Parker’s improvisations are, relative to his usual work, more distilled and economical. His tone is darker and softer than on his small-group recordings, and the majority of his lines are beautiful embellishments on the original melodies rather than harmonically based improvisations. These are among the few recordings Parker made during a brief period when he was able to control his heroin habit, and his sobriety and clarity of mind are evident in his playing. Parker stated that, of his own records, Bird With Strings was his favorite. Although using classical music instrumentation with jazz musicians was not entirely original, this was the first major work where a composer of bebop was matched with a string orchestra.
Some fans thought it was a “sell out” and a pandering to popular tastes. Time demonstrated Parker’s move a wise one: Charlie Parker with Strings sold better than his other releases, and his version of “Just Friends” is seen as one of his best performances. In an interview, he considered it to be his best recording to that date.
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Not everybody finds Bird’s rendition of Just Friends with strings particularly impressive or to their taste. Reviewer Ted Gioia at jazz.com said:
Parker was delighted with this track, and cited it as one of his favorite performances. Certainly he enjoyed the apparent legitimization of his artistry by the presence of a small string orchestra, But the arrangement is insipid, and effectively destroys the value of matching this bebop legend with a quasi-classical ensemble. The altoist, for his part, plays smoothly and with a sure technical command, but nothing here will make you forget his finer Savoy or Dial sides. True, there is a certain fascination in hearing Bird take wing in such an unusual setting, yet I suspect that this recording will be remembered by later generations of jazz fans as a curio rather than a legitimate jazz masterpiece.
Sarah Saughan — 1949
Chet Baker – Baker recorded the song twice in 1955:
- Session 37 — 7 Mar 55, The Chet Baker Quartet: Chet Baker(tp,voc)RussFreeman(p)Carson Smith(b)Bob Neal(d)
- Session 40 – 7 Aug 55, same band and lineup
Wynton Marsalis and friends – from Wynton Marsalis: Live at the House of Tribes
Excerpt from a review at Amazon.com
Wynton Marsalis headlines this lively, Night of the Cookers-type gig, recorded in Manhattan in 2002. Joining him on the frontline is his long-time partner, alto saxophonist Wessell “Warmdaddy” Anderson, backed by a rhythm section featuring bassist Kengo Nakarmura, drummers Robert Rucker and Joe Farnsworth, and pianist, Eric Lewis. –Eugene Holley, Jr.
part 1/2 (part 2, previously included, was removed because of audio and video distortion.)
Wynton Marsalis biography (from Amazon.com*)
Born in New Orleans, Louisiana in 1961, Wynton Marsalis received his first trumpet at the age of six, a gift from the legendary Al Hirt. Fostered by his community and family, Wynton began to perform in local bands. At the age of 17, he was accepted into The Juilliard School in New York City and soon thereafter was discovered by Art Blakey and the Jazz Messengers.
Wynton made his recording debut as a leader in 1982 and has since recorded more than 60 jazz and classical recordings, garnering him nine GRAMMY® Awards. In 1983, he became the first and only artist to win both classical and jazz GRAMMY’s® in the same year. Wynton’s sixth release with Blue Note Records in 2009 titled He and She was inspired by his original poem of the same title.
Mr. Marsalis’ rich body of compositions includes varied combinations of jazz, classical, choral, dance, gospel and blues. In 1997, he became the first jazz artist to be awarded the prestigious Pulitzer Prize in music for his oratorio, Blood on the Fields. In 1999, he premiered a specially commissioned work All Rise, performed by the New York Philharmonic, Jazz at Lincoln Center Orchestra and the Morgan State University Choir. In April 2008, Wynton composed a full mass in celebration of the 200th Anniversary of the Harlem’s Abyssinian Baptist Church.
An internationally respected teacher and spokesman for music education, Wynton conducts workshops all over the world. He created and hosts the popular Jazz for Young People ® concerts, Marsalis on Music DVD series and was honored with a Peabody Award for the radio series Making the Music. He has also written five books including his most recent release Moving to Higher Ground: How Jazz Can Change Your Life.
Mr. Marsalis is the Artistic Director of Jazz at Lincoln Center and helped lead the effort to construct its current home – Frederick P. Rose Hall – the first education, performance, and broadcast facility devoted to jazz.
*This biography was provided by the artist or their representative.